Before I can start this post, you have to know I have been dreading this topic. In short: I am conflicted. I am questioning my decision to even talk about our lessons learned. I wonder who am I to talk about intermittent fasting (IF) when I haven’t lost weight? UGH. Who am I to talk about IF when most days I am just praying I am doing it “right.” UGH. Who cares what I have learned when I haven’t lost any weight. It’s taken me three weeks to write this post. It led to some bad eating days over the topic. Yet here I am persisting and that reflects the essence of who I am. I persist at everything. It doesn’t matter what the topic or activity, I persist. Ultimately through IF, I have learned a lot about myself, what makes me happy, and I have done significant healing. It may not have been what I wanted to learn two years ago when I started IF but I believe the lessons I’ve learned will stay with me forever. With that, let’s persist.
I’ve met a lot of diets I loathed within weeks of starting them, sometimes less. The thought of the cabbage soup diet still gives me nightmares. Counting points, counting calories, never eating carbs again, putting food in pre-portioned boxes, 3-day detox diets, and meal prepping, honestly, all give me a massive headache. I am not judging anyone else’s journey, this is about my journey and mine alone. Simply stated, I want to not eat and then eat without gaining weight. Guess what? That can happen with intermittent fasting (IF). There is magic in allowing your body time to rest between meals. If there was a magic pill for healthy living, one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, intermittent fasting is that magic pill. Our bodies used to get a lot of rest when we only ate 2 or 3 meals a day, before the creation of the “snack” lifestyle. Thank you, Nabisco, and all the rest of you delicious snack companies (insert sarcasm). To give your body time to process, digest, and let go of food before you eat again, is one of the best gifts you can give your body. Most of the major religions practice fasting and it has been around since the beginning of time (for reasons we don’t need to worry about today). Brian and I have been practicing IF for two years and it has created the most freeing, most rewarding relationship we have ever had with food. We have learned a lot about IF and that’s what I am going to talk about today.
During our two years practicing IF, we did not start losing weight until we made more changes to our practice. I am confident that is in part because our bodies were healing from the inside out. It’s exciting to see how the outside is now changing. I will talk about what we are currently doing in my next and last blog post for this series. However, this series hasn’t been about weight loss but rather freedom from food and improving our overall health. We have learned a lot about our bodies over the last two years. Most importantly I needed to know if I could practice intermittent fasting forever before I depended on it for weight loss. But let’s get into what I have learned so far.
Lesson 1: Hormone Balance and Healing can Happen with IF I had a hysterectomy at 40 and though they didn’t take my ovaries, I was kicked into peri-menopause within the first year. First I developed hot flashes. I remember giving an important presentation while practically undressing because of my hot flashes. Teaching was another challenge, I was always either undressing or adding extra layers, quite inappropriate and ridiculous either way. 😂 I developed night sweats that would leave sweat stains on my sheets, horrible brain fog that made me think I was losing my mind, and then there were my mood swings. Holy cow was I moody, just ask Brian! I was taking progesterone and all that did was help me gain weight. Before I started IF, I was a hormonal mess. It took about 6 months on IF before I realized that my hot flashes were gone and my night sweats were over, never to be seen again! 🙌🏼 I didn’t stop taking my progesterone until late last year and I should have stopped earlier because my mood is a million times better without taking anything. I turn 50 this year and my hormones are more under control than they ever have been in my entire life. I don’t know if menopause will get worse before I am through it but I am symptom-free and feel amazing. I know it is because of practicing IF because that is the only change I made two years ago.
Not only have my hormones become better balanced, but my inflammation and arthritis pain are gone. My inflammation flairs up when I am consuming too much wine, but overall, since I started IF, I have seen a lot less inflammation. I had terrible arthritis in my hands from too much computer work but the pain has been gone for about a year. Brian’s back and joint pain have also been greatly reduced and we have both lowered our prescription medication doses with our doctors’ guidance. If you decide to start practicing IF, see your doctor. My doctor has been along with me throughout this entire journey and she can tell you just how much healing my body has since over the last two years.
Since the start of 2021, as I said, we have made more changes and improved the consistency in our IF practice. We also took a break from alcohol. We are currently on week 7 of 12 weeks without alcohol (though we did indulge on Valentine’s Day with a nice bottle of red wine). With the addition of our changes the one health issue that persisted has healed – my blood pressure. I have struggled with high blood pressure for about four years and as of this week, I have stopped taking my blood pressure medication. It will continue to be monitored for a long while but I am thrilled to see my blood pressure self-regulate. That single “fix” is all the motivation I needed to write this blog post.
Lesson 2: Release from Food Addiction & Improved Food Digestion This is an interesting lesson because I think I will always be a food addict but I definitely have a better handle on what I eat, when I eat, and determining what foods are “window worthy,” which means determining if a food is worth eating in the smaller window I have open for feasting. I decide what I want to eat and I don’t feel guilty because my food choice isn’t on “the diet” because there is no “diet.” When guilt is gone, food tastes better and decisions about what to eat become easier. This is still not a perfect practice but I am not striving for a perfect “diet” but rather a healthy relationship with food. I’m getting there.
The changes I needed to make were bigger than just what I ate, I needed to stop eating so often because my digestive system was a wreck. I stopped eating gluten in January 2013 and that helped my digestion quite a bit but I still had struggles. I was in the emergency room three times between 2015-2018 because of digestive problems. The only thing that worked to eliminate the problems was to have a clear liquid diet for 24-48 hours. When I did that, my digestive system settled down. When I found IF, I knew the thought of not eating for a small time period would be perfect for me. And it was! I haven’t been to the ER for digestive issues since I started IF in late January 2019. My digestive system is still sensitive but I don’t have near the problems I used to have with it and it only gets better with time. ❤️
Lesson 3: Control over Weight Fluctuations & Hunger Signals I am thrilled that yo-yo dieting is gone forever. I still can’t believe we haven’t had any significant weight fluctuations since we started IF. We have gained some weight during a vacation or a week of too much wine, too long of an eating window, etc. but it comes off so easy once we pull back on the food/wine and tighten up our eating window. If you’re a skinny person or don’t have a food addiction, you understand the ebb and flow of small weight changes. I never understood this phenomenon. I have always been either losing a significant amount of weight because of a diet I was on or gaining weight because of hormones and overeating. I have never experienced the middle without huge ups and downs until I started practicing IF. A lot of people lose significant weight practicing IF. I have not lost a lot of weight yet but I know that my body needed to heal on the inside first and I needed to be ok with living at my current weight. Honestly, I needed to trust IF wouldn’t fail me if I ate burgers, pizza, and drank wine which are the normal “forbidden foods” on a diet that cause people to gain weight when they go off the diet.
After I read Bert Herring’s, The Power of Appetite Correction, I realized how wrong the myths we believed about being hangry were and how hunger comes in waves. Did you know that you don’t have to eat when your stomach rumbles? Before IF, I thought I always had to eat when my stomach rumbled or I’d get hangry. Hunger isn’t constant but rather a wave that will dissipate if you ignore it. My stomach rumbles and now I understand I don’t need to react to it. Sometimes our bodies make noises but it doesn’t mean they need immediate attention. I highly recommend reading Herring’s book to gain control over hunger signals.
Lesson 4: Learning to Love Exercise Again You don’t lose weight in the gym but you can love taking care of your body – this took me several years to understand. I want my body to move and move well for a long time to come. I want to hike the Camino and climb big mountains for the rest of my life and that means I have to keep my body moving throughout the entire year. I don’t consider exercise to be riding my bike around a town, walking the Camino, or hiking outdoors, those are just part of what I enjoy doing for fun. I spent a long time loathing the gym and going anyway to finally creating an exercise/meditation space at home that makes me smile and welcomes me in without judgment. This space has helped me learn to love exercising and taking care of myself again. My home gym is my private space. I can go when I want, for how long I want, or I don’t have to go. Now, I love hopping on my treadmill to break up my day, getting in a workout to clear my mind, and I even occasionally enjoy lifting weights. Nobody cares how loud and off-key I sing or what show I am watching on TV, and that helped me learn to love exercising again. When I can’t climb a mountain or bike under the warm sun, I can still keep moving because I want to do it.
Lesson 5: Trusting the Process This is a tough one and a lesson I am still learning. I am still trying to stop punishing myself for weight problems. I know that food is no longer the enemy and neither is wine. I don’t know why my weight loss is so much harder than what it is for others except I am a life-long diet and metabolism abuser. From everything I read, those are the people that have it the worst when it comes to losing weight. Also, I am going through menopause and my body needs my patience. For those reasons, I have faith in the process. If I am at this weight for the rest of my life, I will be ok. As long as I can remain active, I am ok. If I lose weight, I am ok with that too! Gin Stephens, the author of several books including her most recent, Fast, Feast, Repeat, always says that people come to IF for the weight loss but stay for the health benefits. I came for the weight loss, didn’t lose much but regained my health and now I am staying for the weight loss. I always have to do things the more complicated way. 😂
Lesson 6: Change is Good What is the definition of crazy? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I have been dieting my entire life. It has never worked for a lifetime. It was time for a big change. It wasn’t time to lose weight but rather to stop making the same decisions over and over again expecting different results. It was time to heal. IF has allowed for change, healing, and self-discovery but only because two years ago I was all in for the unknown process, the unknown journey of intermittent fasting. I was more than ready for change and I was over dieting forever. In 2021, I am still ready for change but to say I am still practicing the same “diet” for more than two years is a miracle. I have never stuck around for the same diet for this long. I know why too – because it’s not about what I eat but rather when I eat. Hallelujah!
In the final blog post of this series, I am going to talk about what our eating/fasting regimen has looked like for the last two years and the changes we have made for 2021. I am not going to say that those changes are the reason we are losing weight but they sure have motivated us! Here are a few pictures that keep us going! The photo on the far left is January 6, 2021, the next is February 6, 2021. For Brian, the left photo is February 21, 2021, and the right is July 30, 2020. It’s time this weight loss train moved into high gear and we are loving it! Come back for the next blog and I will tell you all about it!
To go back and re-read post #5 in this series, click here. To go back and re-read this series from the start, click here. To read the final post in this series, come back! Subscribe to our blog to get an email when the blog is posted.
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